If you look at how far global society has come, you can say that indeed much has changed. The impact left by various movements and events in human history has brought to light many issues leading to relevant changes in culture, institutions, and societal functions. This is known as social change. Although social change movements – such as the feminist movement, civil rights movement, and the Reformation among others – happened as significant historical events, their cause and effects can be observed as ongoing, and what more, evolving in today’s society. Not to mention that much of the social change efforts today are aided by seemingly modern devices, namely that of popular culture and new media.
Let us look into how these devices play a part in social change today.
Firstly, popular culture reflects real-life social issues. Some of the things which come to the average person’s mind when “pop culture” is mentioned are primarily entertainment such as film, music, television, and video games. Other categories in popular culture include sports, news, politics, fashion, technology, and slang. Popular culture, especially arts and entertainment, has been seen to reflect relevant social issues. For example, “The Pianist” a 2002 autobiographical film adaptation, tells the story of a Polish-Jewish pianist who survived the Holocaust and tells a chilling tale of what racial discrimination can become if empowered by governments to oppress others. More recent examples of popular culture reflecting social issues are heard in songs such as “Where is the Love?” by Black Eyed Peas highlighting issues such as discrimination, terrorism, media abuse and more, and “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks which highlights mental health issues, particularly depression.
Next, new media is the tool that propagates these messages and facilitates the course of action for social change. Before we discuss new media we need to understand what exactly media is. Media, the plural form of ‘medium’, describes the channels (mediums) in which information is propagated and distributed. Prior to new media we have traditional mainstream media such as radio, television, and newspaper. After that came the rise of new media such as internet web pages, social media, instant messaging apps, video streaming services, music streaming services, and more. Aside from the ability to spread information, new media also has the ability to allow users to have two-way or multi-way communication – a feature which traditional media lacks. This provides an opportunity for like-minded individuals to facilitate relevant courses of action which could bring about social change. For example, hosting a fundraising page or an online watch party event.
Finally, both popular culture and the use of new media lead to a heightened awareness which prompt discussions and make informed decisions. With the dissemination of popular entertainment and news through new media accessible to the masses, the public could gain heightened awareness of issues otherwise not talked about, whether it is racial discrimination, gender inequality, or sex education, among others. Also, with the ability of new media – namely social media – to facilitate forum and discussion, knowledge of particular social issues can be gained and exchanged. This in turn leads to a more informed society motivated to respond and act according to what they have learnt. They are also able to make these informed decisions quickly thanks to advancements in technology and media.
In a nutshell, social change remains a constant and integral part of global society even today. The presence of modern popular culture and the use of new media further highlight various social issues to raise awareness on them, and also aids in the fight for positive social change. However, the misuse of popular culture and new media can have detrimental consequences, such as misinformation or to the worst extent, cyberterrorism. Nevertheless, this only proves how powerful modern popular culture and new media is. With that in mind, one ought to be thankful for the existence of new media which accelerates societal progress while also being prudent to utilise these channels wisely for everyone’s benefit.